Sony's Exclusive Ultra HD Videos Could be Impossible to Stream
In an interview with Bloomberg, Sony (NYSE: SNE) CEO Kazuo Hirai said that his company must release one product at a time to have people understand, "Wow! Sony is really starting to get its mojo back."
Sony hopes that its "mojo" can be retrieved by selling a host of new Xperia smartphones, Bravia televisions and Handycam camcorders. These are the same kinds of items that Sony has been struggling to sell during each of the last four years when the firm failed to turn a profit.
The Japanese tech giant hopes that consumers -- rich consumers -- will fork over $25,000 to buy the company's first (and currently its largest) 4K Ultra HD television. Smaller (55- and 65-inch models) will come at a later date for an unknown price.
Thus far, film studios and television networks have yet to produce content that takes advantage of these high-end TVs. To entice consumers and fill the content void, Sony said that it will offer 10 full-length feature films that have been digitally mastered in 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160):
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- Bad Teacher
- The Karate Kid
- The Other Guys
- Battle: Los Angeles
- That's My Boy
- Total Recall 2012
- Taxi Driver
- The Bridge on the River Kwai
These films will only be available in 4K to consumers who purchase a Sony Ultra HD TV.
On its website, Sony says that these films will be built into the TV. This contradicts a previous report that users would have to download the films. It also contradicts a rumor stating that the films would only be available for streaming.
According to Engadget, the 4K version of The Amazing Spider-Man takes up 56.4GB of space. The 1080p Blu-ray version is considerably lighter at 36GB.
At this time it is very difficult to stream Blu-ray films. Hulu streams TV shows in 720p and Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) can stream films in 1080p.
Blu-ray films, however, are considerably larger. The average Blu-ray disc uses 30GB of space, while Netflix films are estimated to reach a maximum of 2.3GB per hour for HD-quality.
Some would argue that Blu-ray films are larger because the picture quality is noticeably superior to HD streams. Others believe that it is simply because Blu-ray does not compress its videos as heavily as Netflix since the format was not built for online delivery.
Whatever the case, 30GB would be a lot for any Internet connection to handle. Netflix recommends that its users have a connection speed of no less than 5Mbps to stream in HD. That might sound rather slow, but it is actually faster than the average bandwidth speeds achieved by Netflix users.
If Netflix users are struggling to consistently stream at 5Mbps for movies that are roughly 5GB in size (2.3GB per hour times two hours equals 4.6GB), they would find it all but impossible to stream a film that used 56GB of data. Not even Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) -- the fastest ISP Netflix tested -- could change that.
Despite the company's goal of achieving speeds of one gigabit per second (up to 360Mbps over Wi-Fi), Google Fiber users reached an average connection speed of 2.55Mbps while watching Netflix -- roughly half the recommended amount for HD videos.
In addition to the lower Internet speeds, Sony also faces the challenge of ISP data caps. Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), for example, employs an average monthly data cap of 300GB. This would limit users to just five and a half movies before the cap was reached.
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